KUNM

Gov. Clears Way For Child Abuse Legislation, NM Marks Milestone For Indian Education

Feb 2, 2018

Gov. Martinez Clears Way For Child Abuse LegislationThe Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has cleared the way for New Mexico lawmakers to consider a measure that would expand obligations under state law to report child abuse or neglect.

The state's top prosecutor and others are concerned that the current law calls for reporting abuse by parents, guardians and custodians of children but leaves out abuse by other people such as school personnel.

The proposed legislation would broaden reporting obligations to cover abuse and neglect by almost anyone.

The governor in a message sent to lawmakers Thursday called for adding the proposal to the agenda.

Supporters, including New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, are hopeful the measure can be debated and reach the governor's desk before the 30-day legislative session wraps up in mid-February.

New Mexico Marks Milestone For Indian Education – The Associated Press

New Mexico officials are marking the 15th anniversary of the state's Indian Education Act that was designed to provide equitable access to public education and help maintain indigenous languages.

Sponsors of the 2003 legislation visited the state Capitol on Friday talk about its impact. A pending lawsuit accuses the state of not following through with the reforms.

Navajo Nation Delegate and former state Sen. Leonard Tsosie says the act was a call to action that has given Native American parents and tribes a greater say in their childrens' education.

Assistant Secretary for Indian Education Latifah Phillips says the Public Education Department strives to be responsive and respectful of tribal interests as it develops indigenous language programs.

She said high school history classes across the state are weaving in more information about pueblo, Apache and Navajo tribes starting this summer. About one in 10 New Mexico residents identify themselves as Native American. 

Coal Plant Legislation Draws Fire From EnvironmentalistsThe Associated Press

Environmentalists are taking aim at legislation that would address how New Mexico's largest electric provider recovers hundreds of millions of dollars in stranded costs related to the planned closures of two coal-fired power plants.

They're planning to show up in opposition Saturday when the bill is scheduled for debate before the Senate Conservation Committee. Critics contend the proposal only protects shareholders.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico says an alternative financing mechanism would help to mitigate some of the costs that would come from retiring the San Juan and Four Corners plants early.

The method has been used in other states, including in Florida where lawmakers passed a measure in 2015 clearing the way for a utility to recover costs associated with the premature retirement of a nuclear power plant.

Ex-US Attorney Damon Martinez Surges In Congress Money RaceThe Associated Press

Former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez raised the most money at the end of 2017 for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico.

Reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission show Martinez raised nearly $150,000 despite entering into the Democratic primary late last year. His campaign also reported having $310,837 cash on hand.

Former University of New Mexico Law School Associate Dean Antoinette Sedillo Lopez reported raising $126,105 in the fourth quarter last year and has $456,249 cash on hand — the most of any candidate in the race.

She's followed by former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland who raised $123,994 during the same period and has $386,092 cash on hand.

Janice Arnold-Jones, the only Republican seeking the GOP nomination, reported raising $22,638 and had $34,431 cash on hand.

Air Force's Next Look At Attack Planes Set For Arizona BaseThe Associated Press

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in southern Arizona will be the site of continued experimentation aimed at collecting data to enable the Air Force to buy an off-the-shelf light-attack aircraft at low cost.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says in a news release issued Friday in Washington that the experimentation May through July will involve using the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano.

Wilson calls those aircraft "the two most promising" among four included in tests conducted last summer at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The release says further experimentation will examine logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues and other characteristics.

Davis-Monthan hosts a unit that flies the A-10, an attack jet first flown during the Cold War and still in service to support ground forces.

Bill Toughening Abuse Penalties Clears CommitteeAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have advanced a bill that would make the intentional and fatal abuse of a child — of any age — punishable by a sentence of life in prison.

The legislation to stiffen penalties has gained heightened significance in the wake of the death of a 13-year-old boy who authorities say had been beaten and tortured. Similar legislation has failed to become law in recent years.

As the law stands now, judges can only hand down life sentences to offenders in intentional and fatal child abuse cases when the victim is 12 or younger. The mandatory sentence in cases in which the victim is 13 or older is 18 years.

The measure was debated Thursday in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

Prosecutors Detail Abuse Endured By New Mexico TeenAssociated Press

Prosecutors say three people charged in the death of a 13-year-old New Mexico boy are a danger to the community and shouldn't be released pending trial.

Pretrial detention motions were filed this week for all three defendants that provide even more detail about Jeremiah Valencia's death and the abuse authorities say he endured.

The boy's mother, Tracy Ann Peña; her boyfriend, Thomas Wayne Ferguson; and his 19-year-old son, Jordan Nuñez face charges of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy.

Prosecutors accuse Ferguson of punching Jeremiah in the face, choking him and turning him upside down and slamming his head onto the ground. Ferguson then allegedly threw the boy into a dog cage and left him to die.

Ferguson's attorney said he plans to fight the charges.

New Mexico Lawmaker Says Budget Committee Met SecretivelyAssociated Press

A Republican lawmaker says his budget request to restore $41 million to public school reserve accounts was pushed aside after members of lead budget writing committee met out of public view.

Rep. James Townsend of Artesia says House rules may have been broken when a quorum of 10 members of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee met in a legislative agency conference room to discuss provisions of a proposed $6.3 billion budget.

He announced the concerns Thursday on the House floor and filed a verbal complaint with the lead staff attorney for the Legislature. Townsend says the off-record meeting deprives lawmakers and their constituents of rights to representation.

Democratic Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom says decisions are not made at such working group meetings and that Townsend was welcome to attend.

New Mexico Bill Seeks To Expand High School Chicano StudiesAssociated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker is seeking to expand an early college high school initiative involving Chicano Studies.

Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero is sponsoring a bill that would appropriate $250,000 to expand the Albuquerque-area program with the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at the University of New Mexico.

Officials say the project has increased admissions and retention rates for first-generation college students from Albuquerque high schools.

The program enrolled 118 students from the three Albuquerque Public Schools' high schools and had a 96 percent completion rate during its first year.

WNMU Gets Anonymous Donation To Help Native AmericansSilver City Sun-News, Associated Press

Anonymous donors are pledging more than $130,000 to the Western New Mexico University Foundation to establish scholarships for Native American students.

The Silver City Sun-News reports a couple recently established an endowment and created an immediate use fund to supplement its growth.

Endowed scholarships will be created with gifts that total a minimum of $15,000.

WNMU Foundation Director Jodi Edens-Crocke says the couple cares about Native American cultures and indigenous students.

Officials say Western New Mexico University serves more than 100 Native American students each semester.

Coal Plant Legislation Draws Fire From EnvironmentalistsAssociated Press

Environmentalists are taking aim at legislation that would address how New Mexico's largest electric provider recovers hundreds of millions of dollars in stranded costs related to the planned closures of two coal-fired power plants.

They're planning to show up in opposition Saturday when the bill is scheduled for debate before the Senate Conservation Committee. Critics contend the proposal only protects shareholders.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico says an alternative financing mechanism would help to mitigate some of the costs that would come from retiring the San Juan and Four Corners plants early.

The method has been used in other states, including in Florida where lawmakers passed a measure in 2015 clearing the way for a utility to recover costs associated with the premature retirement of a nuclear power plant.

New Mexico Legislature Celebrates American Indian CultureAssociated Press

American Indian tribal leaders are converging on the New Mexico Statehouse for an annual celebration of indigenous communities and culture.

Amid Friday's festivities, a state Senate panel is scheduled to hear testimony about oil and natural gas development in the vicinity of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and legislative efforts to ensure local tribes are consulted before federal mineral leases are issued.

An upcoming lease sale by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is stoking a long-running dispute over management of vast expanses of land surrounding Chaco park, designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The state also is marking the 15th anniversary of laws designed to provide equitable access to public education and maintain indigenous languages. A pending lawsuit accuses the state of not following through with the reforms.

Long Standoff With Armed Suspect Inside Clovis Jail Now Over Eastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

A more than four-hour standoff with an armed suspect inside a county jail in eastern New Mexico has ended after the man shot himself.

Authorities say Wesley Flores was transported to a hospital from the Curry County Adult Detention Center on Thursday night with life-threatening injuries.

The Eastern New Mexico News reported that the standoff began about 2:30 p.m. when a man pulled out a handgun after he was taken inside the jail to be booked on unknown charges.

It wasn't immediately clear where Flores got the weapon or whether he was searched after initially being arrested. He took a detention officer hostage but two deputies were able to free him according to a police news release.

County officials say the man was isolated in a secure area of the jail, unable to access other parts of the facility and pointing the gun at himself.

Bill Making Post-High School Plan Mandatory Clears CommitteeAssociated Press

A proposal to require New Mexico high school juniors to apply to college or begin to make other post-high school plans as a condition of graduation has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The bi-partisan legislation would make New Mexico the first state to mandate that high school students submit an application for a two- or four-year college, vocational school, apprenticeship or job — although individual districts in the past have set in place similar requirements.

Under the New Mexico bill, students could also meet the requirement by inquiring about military enlistment.

A House committee on Thursday approved the bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and Republican Rep. Nate Gentry, who said some language in the measure was being amended to expand options for students.

Both lawmakers are from Albuquerque.

Navajo Nation Wraps Up Summit Meant To Improve Public SafetyAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation has wrapped up a four-day summit meant to identify gaps in public safety on the vast reservation.

Participants gathering Thursday at the tribe's casino east of Flagstaff say those gaps include a slow or no response from emergency services, a shortage of police officers and poor communication between districts.

The tribe's Justice Department is gathering the feedback to analyze what's needed.

The issues aren't new. But tribal officials say they wanted to get people across different departments talking, involve tribal communities in public safety and create consistency.

Participants also discussed using traditional methods to address high rates of suicide, violence and substance abuse.

State Official Concerned About Trust Lands Near White SandsAssociated Press

New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says the state is losing potentially millions of dollars a year because military restrictions are preventing the leasing of state trust lands adjacent to White Sands Missile Range.

Dunn sent a letter to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, saying public schools and other beneficiaries should be compensated if the U.S. Defense Department is going to prevent the leasing of state trust land in the area.

In 2004, an agreement was reached with the Defense Department on restrictions and lease payments in call-up areas to the north and west of the range. That expired in 2006 and negotiations have been ongoing since then.

Range officials argue they don't restrict use or prevent leasing of adjacent lands, but Dunn's office contends the way the military uses the area creates a de facto prohibition.

3 Cannon Air Force Base Airmen Arrested, Accused Of RapeAssociated Press

Three airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base in eastern New Mexico have been arrested and accused of rape.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports that the arrests of 24-year-old Senior Airman Thomas Newton, 19-year-old Airman 1st Class Isaiah Edley and 18-year-old Airman 1st Class Rahman Buchanan in Portales stem from an incident early Saturday at a house party in Clovis involving a victim who also is assigned to the base

Each man is accused of second-degree criminal sexual penetration.

The three remain jailed pending appearances in state District Court in Curry County. None of the defendants have attorneys who could comment on the allegations.

Cannon spokesman John Rebello says base officials will assist "local law enforcement to ensure a thorough and complete investigation."

Latino Group Leader Rebuked For Backing Trump Border Plan - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The chief executive officer of the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S. is rebuking the group's elected president for endorsing President Donald Trump's immigration plan that seeks to build a border wall.

League of United Latin American Citizens CEO Brent Wilkes said late Wednesday a letter to Trump from group president Roger Rocha was a "clear contradiction" of its immigration reform stance.

Rocha wrote Trump this week saying the storied civil rights group would support his plan for a wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants brought to the country illegally.

He rescinded the letter after backlash from members in New Mexico, Texas, and California.

Wilkes says Rocha sent the letter with the group's logo without its board's consent.

Some members are calling for Rocha to resign.

New Mexico City Settles Tort Claim From Former Police ChiefLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico city has settled a tort claim filed by its former police chief over allegations of city misconduct and creating a hostile work environment.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the city of Las Vegas paid out more than $54,000 after Juan Montano filed the claim last year.

City officials say Las Vegas paid $33,500 to Montano and the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico. Montano also received about $21,000 for accumulated vacation and sick time.

Montano's attorney Raul A. Carrillo Jr. sent a letter to the city last summer, claiming Montano faced retaliation from the city for the "performance of his legal duties and obligations."

Montano became chief in December 2014. He recently left the department.

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